All posts by Dan Milne

Booko now has Notifications

*This post original appeared on Booko’s tech blog.

You may have noticed a new menu icon on Booko recently:

You have Alerts!

Booko will now show you notifications on the website. The alert icon changes to Booko orange when a notification is ready for you.

What kind of Notifications are shown?

Alerts: The first notification type we introduced was for Alerts. So not only do you get an email when your alert is triggered, you can now see a nice clean summary of all triggered alerts under the notification menu.

Updates to Followed Lists : Do you follow any lists? If you are following lists you’ll now receive a notification when the list is updated. No need to randomly check your followed lists any more.

List suggestions: When a suggestion you have made for a list is accepted or rejected, or a list you create receives a suggestion, you’ll get a notification so you can keep on top of the changes.

You can find the Notifications under your Profile -> Notifications or via clicking on the notifications menu in the tool bar.

Collaborative Lists

We’ve recently added some features to Lists on Booko to make them more easily shared with friends and colleagues or anyone on the internet.


Lists now have an option to be discoverable to other Booko users. Marking a list as discoverable will add the list to the Discover More Lists page. You can find a list to these discoverable lists by clicking on “Lists → Discover More Lists“.

To set a list to be discoverable, edit your lists and find the privacy settings, then set your list to Discoverable.

List Sharing

You can also set a list to be shareable – this makes the list public, but doesn’t advertise the list on the Discoverable page. When you’re viewing a list which is shareable (or discoverable), you can copy the URL and send it to friends – they’ll be able to view your list and follow it if they want to keep up with books you add to your list.

List Following

When you discovered an interesting list, or when a list has been shared with you, you can ‘Follow’ it. Following a list is like bookmarking it. You can find the list of your followed lists under your Profile → Follows.

Lists which are Shared or Discoverable can also be followed with an RSS Reader – any new items added to the list will show up as a new article in your feed reader.

List Suggestions

To make lists actually collaborative, your fellow Booko users can now send you suggestions for your discoverable or sharable lists. This feature can be switched on from the list edit page where you can enable “Accept Suggestions”.

When a fellow Booko user is browsing one of your lists which accepts suggestions, they’re presented with a list of their recently viewed products or works or series which they can suggest you add to your list. They can also see if their previous suggestions were accepter or rejected.

When you add a suggestion to a list, the list owner will see them and can accept or reject them.

May your collaborations be fruitful!

Sort your Alerts

A new feature was rolled out today: you can now sort your alerts by product name or by current product price.

It sounds easy to say it like that, but there was a bit more to it than I expected:

  • Keep track of which column is being sorted and which direction when moving between pages of alerts
  • Consistently show only active / inactive alerts
  • Draw directional chevron in the column headers and show the chevron when you mouse over an unsorted column
  • Make sure column headers don’t wrap when you add a chevron
  • Sort alerts by product price

This last item isn’t as straight forward as you might guess. Each alert is related to a single product and each product has many prices. Sometimes Booko doesn’t have any prices for a product or the prices are stale or the prices are for a different region ( US / UK ); furthermore, product prices can have filters ( EG, we don’t show Amazon Prime price by default since they require you to pay a membership fee ).

The current method for sorting by price is a bit brute force – if you find it slow please let me know and I’ll take a look at optimising it.

The Martian

The Martian‘ is the first published novel by Andy Weir.  It was originally self-published in 2011, after which Crown Publishing purchased the rights.  It was published in 2014 and the movie is scheduled to be released on October 2nd.  So you have the opportunity to read the book first!  It’s about a NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who is left stranded on Mars when the crew of the Ares 3 mission are forced to leave.  With no way to contact Earth, Watney must rely on his scientific and technical skills to survive, growing potatoes in the crew’s Martian habitat (or Hab) and burning hydrazine to make water. He begins to record his experiences so that they might prove useful for future explorers after his death. NASA discovers that Watney is alive when satellite images pick up human activity and they begin a plan to rescue him.  This book is the perfect Father’s day gift.

Here’s the film trailer.  It looks ah-mazing!

If that’s doesn’t get you interested, here’s Mythbuster Adam Savage interviewing author Andy Weir:



Facebook Login is Live!

For those users who like the ease of using their Facebook account to log in to other services, we have good news.  Booko now allows you to create a Booko account and log in via Facebook.  We’ve added it to the list of existing login systems, plus given the whole page a bit of a polish.



If Facebook knows your email address, we’ll attempt to match that to your Booko account.  So, if your Facebook email matches your Booko email address, you’ll be logged into your existing Booko account.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Following Google Webmaster suggestions

On January 25th this year, I updated Booko to display more descriptive page titles and added content to meta-description tags along with several other meta-tags. The meta-description tags now say stuff like:

Prices (including delivery) for I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson range from $25.19 at Bookworld up to $44.55. ISBN: 9781742612577

Here’s a graph of the number of Booko pages indexed by Google :

Google Index Status of Booko
Total pages indexed in Google

The number of pages which Google index on Booko had been steadily falling for several months – after providing much better, distinct page titles and meta data, the number of pages indexed has steadily grown.

Google Webmaster (Optimization -> HTML Improvements ) had been alerting me that Booko had a high number of “Duplicate meta descriptions” – taking their advice seems to have increased the number of Booko’s pages in Google index.  That can only be good right?

Know what you’re measuring

At Booko, we use New Relic to measure performance.  When deploying a new change, it’s good to watch New Relic and see how performance is impacted by the latest changes.

Recently we fixed a bug related to the list functionality of Booko.  Every browser viewing Booko polls the servers for the price of the user’s list every two seconds until the prices are up-to-date.  The bug caused the browser to poll when there was no need to – essentially making every browser hit Booko every two seconds.   These requests were really fast to respond to – essentially with the message “You’re good – no change, stop talking to me.”.   After fixing this bug, here’s what New Relic displayed:

Bug fix makes things worse?
Bug fix makes things worse?

The bug fix went in at 13:40-something.  Apparently response times shot up from < 200ms to ~ 600ms.  What happened?

I think the hint is in the Throughput graph.  RPM dropped from 2000 / minute to somewhere around 200. I suspect that New Relic averages your response times and since we removed 90% of requests which were all fast, the average response time jumped up and the Apdex score crashed down from Awesome to Meh.

All this just reinforces that it’s good to know what you’re measuring.  The average response time is interesting, but in this case the average was not representative of Booko user experience.

Using Booko on the iPhone

One of the most requested features we get at Booko is an iPhone app for scanning books.

After doing some research, I’ve discovered the free ZBar Barcode Reader for iPhone.  ZBar lets you set URLs to open after doing the scanning.  Here’s how you set it up so you can scan a book and get the Booko page.

Download the ZBar application from iTunes and start it up:

Hit the camera icon and scan a barcode.  The ISBN will be scanned and a web page will open:

Hit the “Barcode” navigation and head back to the Barcode Detail page.  Hit Edit:

Scroll to the bottom of the list and hit “Add new Link”.  Fill the details. For URL enter:{ISBN-13}

Save the new link, then drag the new Booko link to the top of the list :

Hit “Done”.  Now when scanning books or DVDs, Booko will pop up immediately.


Price Alerts

Booko users now have an awesome new feature: price alerts.  If you’re logged into Booko, you’ll see see some new text on product pages – “Click here to create an alert for this product”.  Clicking this will allow you to set an alert price. If Booko sees this product at or below your alert price, it will email you to let you know.

You’ll also find a new Manage Alerts section in the User Menu on the left hand side. This is where you can modify the alert price, as well as activate, de-activate or delete an alert.

Booko is set up to check the prices daily, but we may push that out to weekly if the load gets too high.  If you’re interested in what’s popular, the top 50 alerts can be seen here.